Yesterday we went to the Capitol in Harrisburg with Tonya to help with the poverty simulation for legislators. There was a lot of waiting around because we arrived early and we had to wait for a session to be over, but once the simulation started everything kicked into gear. The first couple of weeks, people were still confused as to what certain agencies did/offered, what they could pawn, who sold illegal things, and what a transportation card was, but by the end of the simulation, people were sprinting off to work knowing that they couldn’t be fired or knowing exactly what they had to do to get from place to place.
Just being there for the simulation made me realize the many things that may potentially go wrong, and I have been trying to keep in mind what aspects we need to make sure that we do to get the message across that we intend to. For example, in the one we just did, it was easy to go around and fold up chairs of families that were evicted. That way, the people who were evicted did not have a home base and either had to squat in someone else’s house or wander around. We can’t really fold up the tables in the ballroom but we can have a sign obvious to everyone so the families are held accountable and can’t hide their “evicted” sign and continue to pretend to be at their tables.
I played the role of a little girl in a family where the mother worked two jobs and my brother was 16 and struggling in school. The representatives that played my family were interesting people, and I was really surprised that it took them as long as it did to learn the importance of planning ahead and buying transportation passes in bulk and cashing/depositing our checks so we could use that money to pay for things.
The reflection was also interesting. We had heard that there was mixed feelings about participating in this because it was all for Republicans. I was proud that during the reflection, some people really understood and realized that when you are impoverished (even though you may not even meet the federal standards of poverty), you are short on time, money, and/or support, which take away from the other resources that you are sufficient in. To me, the point of the simulation is to stress everyone out and force you to plan ahead and realize there are things you have to cut back on, and it is really difficult to move forward and do things like clear debt, go to school—things we all know set you up for success. Some people said they did just fine, and that poverty is very possible to get out of, but didn’t acknowledge that they were evicted from their homes and were unable to pay for their food. And even if they did, when you look around, how many other families made an improvement in their situation? Only one family paid their electricity bill every week and two families bought food.
I will definitely be working on laminating our materials because I think it would make things a whole lot more organized. I learned so much from this test run, and know that this day will definitely be stressful for almost everyone. That’s the point. But, I’d like to do more to reduce the potential stress of the day of. J Helena